Nakamura Steals Show On Last Day, Wins Norway Chess 2023

Nakamura Steals Show On Last Day, Wins Norway Chess 2023


GM Hikaru Nakamura won on demand with the white pieces against GM Fabiano Caruana on the last day of Norway Chess 2023, ousting the tournament leader and winning the prestigious title for the first time. This is also the first time in the last five editions that GM Magnus Carlsen didn’t win. Carlsen came in sixth after losing to GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov on time in the armageddon game. 

Caruana finishes in second while 17-year-old GM Gukesh D places third. The Indian grandmaster made two comfortable draws against GM Wesley So to win the match. GM Anish Giri beat GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in armageddon, while GM Aryan Tari won his first game in the tournament against GM Alireza Firouzja.

Caruana had led the tournament from the first day, but he would face second-place Nakamura in the last round. A draw would have been enough for the U.S. champion to win the tournament.

First and second place duke it out. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


This was the marquee matchup of the final day. Going into the round, Nakamura was 2.5 points behind the tournament leader and had the chance the usurp Caruana with a win in classical. At their last classical encounters, at the 2022 FIDE Candidates, each of them traded one win with the white pieces, and they’ve played many games online since. Caruana had a +1 lifetime score overall.

Nakamura and Caruana shake hands before the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura in the confessional said that he asked his second, Chris Littlejohn, to prepare for “something in 1.e4 e5.” They cooked up the Fried Liver Attack in the Italian Game, going into a variation where Black sacrifices a pawn but has great activity. Nakamura revealed he used this same 8.Bd3 line against GM Joshua Friedel in the final round of the 2009 U.S. Championship.

After the game, he said: “There are a lot of variations that didn’t occur in the game that are extremely sharp… because of this must-win, I didn’t mind going for that.” He pointed out that Caruana had probably not expected this opening line and that it brought back good memories.

Not long after the opening moves, Caruana made a game-losing mistake after two minutes of thought, pushing 17…f5? (the first new move of the game) and losing a second pawn for insufficient compensation. He thought for over 30 minutes on the next move, but the position was already lost.

This game-changing victory by Nakamura is covered by GM Dejan Bojkov in our Game of the Day: Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

You can listen to Nakamura’s thoughts in the video below:

So what’s the secret sauce? How does Nakamura keep winning, despite claiming to be a non-professional chess player?

He said on the broadcast: “I think the bottom line is the fact that there’s no pressure on me versus all the other players, where there’s a massive amount of pressure!” He pointed out that he has a streaming career he can fall back on, worst comes to worst.

He also said: “For whatever reason, I think I’m playing better in classical than I am in playing blitz or rapid in probably the last six months,”


In the potential battle for second place, So and Gukesh played their third classical game ever. They played for the first time at the slow time control in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. So won there and they made a draw a month later in the WR Chess Masters. 

So vs. Gukesh. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The classical game was the first to finish in the round. From a Queen’s Gambit, So was able to create an isolated pawn, but Black had enough activity to compensate for it. It ended in a straightforward draw.

The armageddon game was not terribly exciting. By move 14, So traded off all the pieces except two rooks and a minor piece for each side. Polgar said: “Gukesh will need to make some huge blunder to lose this position.” The blunder didn’t occur and Gukesh drew comfortably.

After the game, So said: “I could’ve maybe done things a bit better here and there, but I was getting so tired in the end.” He added: “I’m not afraid of hard work [to improve],” stating that next on his schedule are the Champions Chess Tour Airthings Masters and then the World Cup.


Perhaps to blow off steam, Carlsen played an online match against GM Nihal Sarin yesterday, finishing with a rating of 3309, the number-one blitz rating on at the time of writing. (Nihal is in second place with a 3230 rating.) Unfortunately, the online practice did not translate to over-the-board results on Friday.

Abdusattorov is one of the few people in the world to have a plus score against Carlsen overall. That being said, they’d played just one game. The young Uzbek GM won their first-ever game, in Wijk aan Zee, with the black pieces. 

2007 was the last time Carlsen finished a round-robin without a classical win. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

From the Petroff Defense, the former world champion got the bishop pair and a slight advantage, but after 33.h5, the position started liquidating in a forcing manner. The Uzbek prodigy held his own.

The armageddon game was a long one. Carlsen went for the same opening line and only deviated from the classical game with 20.Nd4. A few significant chances were missed earlier in the game, but the final critical moment came when Carlsen achieved a two-pawns-up rook endgame. With both players under insane time pressure, the former world champion was unable to convert.

Abdusattorov reached a technically drawn endgame, but it didn’t matter as Carlsen lost on time—his first armageddon loss in the tournament.

Carlsen finishes the tournament with a rating of 2835, a rating drop of 18 points. It’s not one of his best performances ever, but on the other hand, on its own, it would still be the fourth-highest rating ever achieved in history.


Giri and Mamedyarov had an even lifetime record going into the game, +4 -4 =13. Their last game was at Norway Chess last year, and Mamedyarov won that one with White. Giri had the first move this time.

The players smile before the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The first game featured a funny variation of the Cozio Defense, in the Spanish Game, as Giri moved his queen four times in the opening just to land it back on its starting square. Although he outplayed his opponent in an opposite-color bishop middlegame, he was unable to convert the advantage to a win.

Giri repeated the same line again in the armageddon but deviated with 12.Rd1, this time not moving his queen a fourth time. His queen found the strong maneuver of Qf3-Qg3, after which he created an isolated pawn on e4 for his opponent. He ultimately won the game with a queen and knight vs. queen and bad bishop.


When it rained it poured for Tari on most days of the tournament. In the last round, he faced Firouzja, who boasted a +4 lifetime score, with zero losses and just one draw.

Yet Tari managed to score his first win of the tournament—and his first win over Firouzja.

Despite a challenging tournament, Tari was all smiles before the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The critical moment came on move 28. Firouzja thought for 23 minutes before entering complications with the correct 28…Nxg2. They played a long, forcing sequence, but instead of simplifying the position further, the French number-one attempted for more.

It backfired immediately and Tari soon took over the c-file, winning a piece in the long run. The game finished with a stunning checkmating pattern (which did not appear on the board).

Round 9 Scores

Final Standings

The 2023 Norway Chess was an elite over-the-board tournament in Stavanger, Norway. The event started on May 29 with a blitz tournament, followed by a classical event that began May 30. 

In the tournament, 10 players competed in a single round-robin where they earned 3 points for a win in classical,1.5 for a draw and armageddon win, 1 for a draw and armageddon loss, and 0 for a loss. The player who played White in the classical game played White in the armageddon. The time control for the classical game was 120 minutes for the entire game with a 10-second increment per move starting on move 41. In the armageddon game, White got 10 minutes, and Black got seven minutes with draw odds, plus a one-second increment for both players starting on move 41.

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